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ENGL 390: Early Modern Sexualities: Overview

Secondary Sources

Too few results? Try these techniques:

Derive keywords from relevant critical theories:

  • Queer theory --> queer* OR homosexual* OR gay OR lesbian*
  • Postcolonial criticism -> postcolonial* OR border OR neocolonial OR nationalism

Combine your critical theory keywords with relevant keywords from the author, work, or time period:

  • (queer* OR homosexual* OR gay OR lesbian*) AND ("early modern England" OR "As You Like It")

Too many results? Try these techniques:

Look for a database field that narrows down results to your particular author, or your particular work. Then, include keywords around your topic.

Example of filling out keyword searches in different fields


Use database limits on the main pages of advanced searches. Try limiting by language (e.g. English), peer-reviewed materials, journal articles, and recent date ranges.

Examples of limiting within a database.


"Is it reputable?"

It can be hard to tell which journal articles are the most "reputable" - which ones have had the most impact, are published in authoritative journals, and have prominent scholar authors. Here are some tips:

Reviewing Journals

Check to see if the journal has been referenced in any of your previously assigned texts, or suggested readings. Some journals from those readings include:

  • Critical Inquiry
  • English Literary History (ELH)
  • GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies
  • Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
  • Modern Language Studies
  • PMLA
  • Representations
  • Studies in English Literature (SEL)

Reviewing Authors

Look up the article's author. Is it a graduate student? A 1st or 2nd-year faculty member? A tenured faculty member at an institution strong in literature? What has this author published previously? Have their previous articles been cited many times by others? This can help you determine if their work has influence in the field.

Other Tools

Google Scholar's "Cited By" feature can be useful, but not always for recently published articles. Remember, books and articles published in the last 15 years may not have had as much time to influence other works. 

In-Class Exercise

Go to this search on Mary Wroth within the MLA database. Pick two entries from the set of results. Investigate their authors and make up your mind whether they are "authoritative" authors on the subject of Wroth and early modern literature. Use these questions to help you make your decision:

  • What institution does the author work for? Does that institution have a robust literature program?
  • What other articles / books has the author published? Are any of them also related to Wroth or early modern literature?
  • Is this a tenured faculty member? An adjunct professor? A graduate student?
  • What journals have they pubilshed in? Do you recognize those journals from the list on this site, or other bibliographies you have encountered?

Be prepared to tell the class whether or not you think your authors are credible scholars on this topic or not.

Subject Guide

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Mayelin Perez
Van Pelt Library, 215


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